October 17, 2017

EIHA’s director for the England National Team programme Geoff Hemmerman has agreed to expand the England programme with the reformation of the England women’s team.

“It’s like going back in time for me”, he said.

“People who know me know that I am a champion for the women’s game here in the UK and with all of the development opportunities being created within the National Team Programme at Conference and England I thought it was about time we reintroduced a senior women’s team to fit in between what England and IHUK’s GB team are currently doing.”

In establishing the England senior women’s team the ENTP has created another level of opportunity which will see changes being made in the England junior programme too.

England U15 girls will revert to being an U14 girls programme and both England girls and England women will follow the new-look England Development Camp format in the same way that the England boys programme has evolved since it was reformatted in January 2016.

The England women’s team will primarily be a hybrid-U17 team.

Due to the number of players currently registered, the programme will initially accommodate players who are 17 years old and registered with the EIHA as U18 players in the current season. The new team will provide an opportunity for players to continue their development and it is intended that any clashes with IHUK’s U16 and U18 women’s programmes will be avoided so that all eligible players can participate together.

Mr Hemmerman added: “We have spent the last six months or so looking closely at how we can implement some of the step-changes that are necessary to improve the female game. We have consulted with a small group of engaged individuals from the current England and GB programmes as well as reviewing the results of feedback we have received from players and their parents.

“With the changes being contemplated in the governance of the sport, there’s never a good time for change but I believe we have to change what we do if we want to see more girls playing hockey at a higher level.”

The new look England female programme will start with trials which will be held in Sheffield starting in November. Due to congestion with fixtures and camps already scheduled, the England trials will be held on Friday nights.

Before then the ENTP will need to recruit additional staff and head coach Ben Pitchley knows there’s a busy few weeks ahead.

“We have the Girls Development Day coming-up on Thursday 26th October at Ice Sheffield and we have seen a sharp increase in numbers these past couple of weeks which is great to see. I know that current England girls staff – Tim Healand, Paul Burton and Lyn Burton – have all committed to attend the event and I have drafted in some additional coaching support from the England boys programme too.

“I know we need to recruit additional England staff to fill our newly created posts and I hope we can attract some top coaches to come and get on board with this new women’s programme.”

Part of the consultation exercise has involved consideration of some radical plans and proposals which has involved exploration of new opportunities for girls and women starting from U8’s right through to the senior game. Not all the plans or proposals received support but in all instances, the personnel involved have all said the same thing:  we need to work together for the good of the female game.

Mr Hemmerman knows all too well what the road ahead looks like, he said: “I’ve spent twenty years trying to get the best for women’s hockey and right now I think we have a great chance of taking some big steps forward once again. Having spoken at length with Cheryl Smith (GB women’s head coach) I know that we have to expand our junior talent pool for GB Staff to be able to chose from and this is where the England programme can deliver.

“The female game cannot count on the same participant numbers of the boys and mens programmes so we have to think a little differently. This is what we are and will be doing and I hope that we can gather momentum and support for the new women’s programme going forward.”

Dates for the diary:

Thursday 26 October – Girls Development Day Ice Sheffield
November – England women & girls trials TBC
Thursday 14 December – England women & girls development camp Ice Sheffield
Thursday 15 February 2018 – England women & girls development camp (venue TBA)
Monday 2 to Friday 6 April 2018 – England women & girls European development camp (U14 & U17)
June 2018 – England Development Camp/School (TBA)